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Sincerity

It is not easy to speak the truth; it is less easy still to speak the truth in love, that is, to be sincere. For, as I understand them, sincerity and the speaking of the truth in love are almost equivalents. Some men speak the truth and are rude. Others speak the truth and are blunt. Others speak the truth and are frank. The sincere speak the truth not with rudeness, not with bluntness, not in frankness, but in love. There is no sincerity except that which springs at once from a love of truth and from brotherly love. Sincerity does not exist apart from charity. Love of truth untempered by love for man is a harsh mistress, apt to scold and quarrel, effecting less for all her scolding than sincerity effects by a smile. ~ An Excerpt

I dare say that if the Scribes and Pharisees had ever thought fit to bring to Jesus a man taken in insincerity, as they brought the woman taken in adultery, and Christ had said ” He that is without sin among you shall first accuse him”: all must have crept out convicted of conscience. All men are insincere. In this matter the best differ from the worst in very little else than the more frequent conviction of conscience.

It is not easy to speak the truth; it is less easy still to speak the truth in love, that is, to be sincere. For, as I understand them, sincerity and the speaking of the truth in love are almost equivalents. Some men speak the truth and are rude. Others speak the truth and are blunt. Others speak the truth and are frank. The sincere speak the truth not with rudeness, not with bluntness, not in frankness, but in love. There is no sincerity except that which springs at once from a love of truth and from brotherly love. Sincerity does not exist apart from charity. Love of truth untempered by love for man is a harsh mistress, apt to scold and quarrel, effecting less for all her scolding than sincerity effects by a smile. Before men can be sincere they must love their fellows from a sense of fellowship with them in Christ Jesus. Charity saves and sweetens the love of truth, nor lets it brew sour products. To change the figure, charity disarms the enemies of truth. Men do not resent sincerity, even when they think him who practises it to be mistaken. Sincerity redeems the worst absurdities and ignorances. A preacher, for example, may appear to his hearers both stupid and ignorant; nevertheless they may be not only impressed but advantaged by his sincerity. A critical contempt for a prophet’s or an apostle’s reasoning is quite compatible with a yearning envy for his spiritual sincerity and spiritual sagacity. The most powerful, the most fruitful influences in the world are those like sincerity and charity, which derive from the indwelling Word, who interprets God to man. God is truth ; God is love; and this infinite truth, infinite love, can in part be apprehended by the believer in Jesus Christ.

Each generation must rediscover fundamental truth for itself. Men are not now, nor are they ever, better than their fathers. They but think the same things out in another way. They are apt now, as their fathers once were apt, to be tolerant of insincerity in themselves and in others, and to read the world in a cynical spirit. But cynicism and sincerity have no common ground, and toleration of faults is an entirely different thing from charity. A cynical man is not in earnest; a sincere man cannot be other than in earnest. He who is tolerant of the more contemptible side of human nature is certainly not actuated therein by brotherly love. The cynical take human nature as they see it in its three-score years and ten, and shut their eyes alike to its origin and its destination. There is no love of truth in such an attitude ; no love of others ; no glorifying of God or of man. It is plain infidelity and insincerity, a vilifying of the Creator and of his creatures.

Which side dost thou take thyself? The side of the real, or of the false, of the father of lies, or of the God of truth?

It was said very long ago by somebody who was himself of the sort, that to be really great a man must be sincere, must mean what he says, must mean what he does; in a word, must be so much in love with truth and reality that not only are his words and acts a genuine expression of himself, but the end and aim of his life is the discovering and divulging of truth. Sincerity at its best is a comprehensive attitude of character, a sort of habit of the soul. The sincere man is in chase of truth. It does not matter so much whether he finds truth, but he must search for her as for hid treasure. He may be dull, and slow, and inobservant, and may search in the wrong places; but if he be in earnest, his disability shall not be urged against him in the day of the Lord.

It is the search for truth, rather than the descrying of truth, which invests a life with dignity and durability. Which is the greater statesman? the man to whom it is enough that a measure be popular and likely to further his own ambitions; or the man who in honesty and sincerity of purpose labours to meet what he believes to be the actual social and political needs of his time? The one may not indeed apprehend the needs of his time, or he may misconceive the aspirations of his contemporaries, but he has at least sought after truth. He has shown faith in God and in humanity, and to that extent he has the elements of greatness in him. And who are the writers that live? Those only who have pursued truth by some of the many paths on which her vision sometimes stands; and of them all, the most enduring, the best beloved, are they whose eyes have been opened to that vision by the spirit of brotherly love, so that in reading man’s heart to men, they make not men cynical or self-contemptuous, but inspire a new respect for man.

The chase of truth, let me repeat, is of greater concern than the attainment of it. There is so much in regard to which man can never be sure whether he has arrived at truth or no. He must often be content to wait upon time. Often also there is nothing to be done but to wait upon the Lord, and to let eternity reveal his success or unsuccess in the pursuit of truth. Willingness to search and wait is faith. By faith alone man follows truth into the presence of God.

I do not believe that any man who has really fallen in love with truth will ever consent to give up the pursuit of her. He may have fits of disloyalty and unfaith, but on the whole he shall continue to love her. He has the habit of loving truth, and cannot live without her. Happily men are judged at the last by their ideals and their abiding attitude towards them, and not by their performance or successes. It is in abiding attitude that a difference lies between the sincere man and the insincere, the veracious and the false, the lover of truth and the respecter of persons and conventions. The difference is a difference in kind, not of degree. No training that man can provide can make the unreal man real, or change an unbeliever into a believer. Love of truth has but one source, the Lord and giver of life. But if men can create the love of truth no more than they can create the fruits of the earth, they may nevertheless cultivate and increase the love of truth as they cultivate and increase the herbs of the field. They may increase it in themselves; they may increase it in their fellows.

Speaking as a schoolmaster, I am not sure that sincerity is not the fruit which best rewards him whose work is to dig about and dung the growing plants of human character. Sincerity is not appetite for information. Love for information may co-exist, does often co-exist, with shiftlessness and fatuity of nature. Such knowledge may leave the man’s best part unfed and lean. But let there be an appetite for truth, a love for ideas; the character then strengthens and spreads. The sap of sincerity rises; there is life and there is growth. Facts are not educative, unless they be used as a stuff for ideas to work upon; whereas even erroneous ideas may educate when they are either formed or accepted from a desire to apprehend truth. Who does not recall some idea, absurd perhaps, or at least untenable, that set up such a ferment in the soul as to keep it at work for months in the eager chase of truth ? You may fill a mind with information, yet leave it perfectly inert and sterile; but once tempt a man to speculate and you begin to educate him. Knowledge of facts there must be; but until such knowledge begin to be fertilised, education begins not.

That this conception is just, that this ideal should be pursued, may be demonstrated, I believe, from the Gospel itself. It was thus that Jesus taught. To compel the mind to take the ideas in and turn them over and over, every means is employed for surprising and startling; sometimes irony, sometimes paradox, sometimes exaggeration other than paradox; in a word, anything and everything which can subvert the conventional attitude of man. When a man lets an idea, a vision of truth, occupy him; suffers it to enter his heart, and as Christ says, set up a ferment there, he begins to become a spiritual being, a lover of truth, a believer in God. He is alive, and has a zest for life. He is sincere.

The love of truth is an education for the whole man, for mind and body as for character and spirit. He who is most in love with truth will be least inclined to make distinctions and see differences between intellectual truth, moral truth, spiritual truth, and—why should I not say it?—truth of body. Human nature is not made up of separate parts in juxtaposition — the spirit, the character, the mind, the body. It is one, and undivided, and indivisible. To educate one part is to educate all. That is not education of body, of mind, of soul, in which any one is made much of to the neglect of the rest. Truth will accept no partial allegiance. She refuses to be loved at all by those who ask that in some things they may deny her.

There are some here who are aware how far the preacher himself has fallen short of this ideal — that the principal result of education should be to awaken the love of truth. There is all the more reason why he should affirm on what may perhaps be his last opportunity of addressing them, that however little he may have realised the ideal, he has at least tried to realise it. He may have searched for truth and not found her; but the finding is a small matter both for them and for himself. To love truth, and inspire others with the love of truth, is to use life for the purpose for which life was given. How great then shall be his condemnation who accepts the place of a parent for the children of others, and does not at least endeavour to teach that the search for truth, especially where truth cannot be apprehended at all without the aid of the Spirit, is life itself; that thereby regeneration sets in within the soul; a process begins which converts that which is mortal into an immortal and ever-vigorous vitality; that ‘above all there is no cause to fear failure in this search if only it be eagerly pursued, forasmuch as the Judge at the last shall judge men not by their sagacity but by their persistence, not by their success but by their devotion.

I wonder if visions of truth await you whom we shall send out two days hence to go up and down among men. Will you choose convention and hypocrisy, or truth and reality? Will the tree of your life grow out of the love of truth or of the love of self? What will the Judge say to you in the day of the Lord?